Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wheel Dog

This doesn’t have much to do with religion, but I was recently reminded of the wheel dog. The wheel dog is a member of a sled dog team, attached directly to the sled. There can be one wheel dog or two, but they must be tied to the sled. Everyone is familiar with the lead dog, and that all the other dogs have the same view. You can google wheel dog and get a sense of what they do, but the best explanation I have found is in James Michener’s “Alaska”.

The wheel dog takes the power of the team, the brute force of the dogs in the middle who are not leaders, and transfers that power to the sled. A good wheel dog can make for a very smooth ride. Without a good wheel dog, the guy in the sled is going to get jerked around and will be very tired by the end of the day.

I prefer this position on a team. Trouble is, when it comes to people assembling people teams, most people have never heard of it. The guy hitching up the team puts the leaders up front and just randomly throws the rest together. Or worse, the team is expected to sort itself out and hitch itself up, without the benefit of opposable thumbs. When one person shows some initiative to organize or to speak for the group or just remember the agenda, that person gets pushed up to the front.

In rare cases, the wheel dog is able to also be a lead dog, and someone fills in the wheel dog position. The story of Aaron becoming a spokesman and assistant for Moses is one of those rare cases. Usually, the team becomes a team without leadership. Team members complain to whoever they think the leader is, and that person complains that they are not the leader. No one is absorbing the complaints and the work turns into a death march toward the deadline.

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